Hire like Netflix: Finding Freelance Content Writers on Craig’s List

In Writing by Chris Meyer

netflix logo - freelance content writer's on Craig's List (feature image)
If I told you that you could post a freelance content writer job ad for free, in every city in the United States, in less than 30 minutes, would you turn your nose up at me? I would think not.

But if I told you the way to do that was by hiring content writers on Craig’s List? Your nose would rise before the words left my mouth.

The hard truth: Craig’s List is not the problem, the way you’re using Craig’s List is the problem.

Anyone who’s willing to do a little dirty work and needs good content writing on a budget is missing out if they’re not hiring freelance writers on Craig’s List.

Read that again, especially the part about dirty work. Still want to learn about finding freelance content writers on Craig’s List?

Read on then.

First, I’ll talk about how to nail the logistics of posting jobs so you can reach the most amount of high-quality job applicants in the least amount of time. Then, I’ll show you how to choose your writer.

Along the way, I’ll sprinkle in some wisdom I’ve learned about how Netflix builds a winning company culture and how you can apply it to hiring writers.

Bookmark all tabs for major cities

If you take one tip from this post, let it be this one: bookmark all tabs.

Simply go to Craig’s List for your desired location, and click on “post to classifieds.” Repeat that process for every major city in the U.S. (San Diego, Atlanta, Boston, NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, D.C. Houston, Austin, Chicago, L.A., etc.)

Once all of those are open, right-click one of the tabs and select “Bookmark All Tabs” on the drop-down menu. Then save it in a folder in your bookmark manager and you’re set.

(That’s how you do it on Google Chrome. It might work a bit differently on other browsers.)

Now, anytime you want to post a job you can right click on the folder you saved, select “open all tabs” and start copying and pasting your job descriptions. (Or links, but more on that later.)

I can’t imagine that anyone looking to hire a few writers here and there would, but don’t be spammy and abuse the power of the saved tabs. Craig’s List will eventually get on to you, and smart job applicants will notice your ad popping up every 24 hours and know to avoid you.

Post once a week at most and you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

Write Job Descriptions targeted at High-Quality Writers

When they’re hiring freelance writers on Craig’s List, most people focus less on finding the best writers and more on weeding out the bad ones.

That’s a mistake.

If there are good writers on Craig’s List, they don’t spend much time there, so you want to grab their attention while you have it.

But even that’s not enough—you want to attract the best of the best.

For example, at Netflix, one of the things they look for is someone who makes wise decisions despite ambiguity. That’s a vital quality in freelance content writers, especially if they work remotely.

Following Netflix’s lead, you need to tailor your descriptions and trial projects for the type of candidate you’re looking for.

But how do you do it? I’ll start with the easy stuff.

1. Avoid spammy ad titles

Your ad should NEVER look like any of these:


******************Freelance Writers Needed***************************

Writers needed now!!!!!! Great Opportunity!

If you’ve spent any amount of time surfing Craig’s List ads as a writer (which I have), you quickly learn to avoid anything that even has a whiff of spam.

So, don’t make huge promises in your ad, whether you can back it up or not. And don’t try too hard to grab writers’ attention.

The writers who do chase after shiny objects are the ones you want to avoid anyway.

A simple, informative title like “Hiring Writers for Ongoing Content,” is totally satisfactory.

2. Give logistical and—like Netflix–company cultural details

Unless you don’t mind potentially wasting a bunch of time, give a rough idea of the rates you’re willing to pay, or ask them to provide theirs.

Make it very clear what you expect in terms of volume and turnaround time. Include the type of content you’ll need as well—landing pages, newsletters, blog posts, etc. And ask for samples.

Don’t forget to say you’re not looking to hire agencies. Nothing against them, but if you’re trying to hire freelance content writers on Craig’s List, but you don’t specify that, agencies will contact you.

You should also include a bit of company culture.

The co-founder and CEO of Workday, Aneel Bushri, said that he was directly involved in hiring the first 500 employees at the company.

Aneel Bushri, CEO of Workday, was directly involved in hiring the first 500 employees at the company.

When it comes to hiring freelancers, there’s a temptation to do it haphazardly. After all, you can toss them out like yesterday’s trash at the drop of a hat. And while that’s true, it shouldn’t mean that you’re willing to give just anybody a try.

Stay in tune to the people that have a hand in your business. Especially when it comes to content, it will eventually get traced back and look bad for the company.

Netflix places a similar emphasis on culture in the hiring process, by the way. They’re constantly updating their company culture and have a single page of over 4000 words that they show to all potential applicants. Which leads me to the next item on the list.

3. Create a web page for job applicants

Dedicate a single page on your website for information to job applicants. It can be general or specific to the role you’re hiring for. If you hire a lot of freelance writers, direct it towards them. Or make several pages for different roles.

The big benefit is that anytime you post a job you can just direct applicants towards that page instead of copying and pasting a blob of text every time.

4. Assign a micro-project

Here’s a little bit more Netflix magic (that I’ve shamelessly stolen):

With the promise of a small payment if you hire them, assign a very small project with very little guidelines.

You’re hiring someone who is going to work remotely who (hopefully) doesn’t require a ton of supervision. This will show you how the applicant handles ambiguity with a task. (See slide 10 of the Netflix culture deck)

It could be a 50-word sample that demonstrates their writing ability or a headline for a blog idea. Try to make it relevant for the work you’ll need, but make sure to skimp on instructions.

One thing I like to do, because I prefer writers who have some SEO expertise, is ask the writer what one thing they’d change about a certain website.

It’s quick and easy enough (for someone who knows what they’re doing) that it’s not too much to ask, but it’s also a good way to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Hiring the Freelance Content Writer

I’ll assume you’ve got a shortlist of potential stars and you’re ready to start hiring.

Spend Time Creating a Paid Trial

Just as you were in the job description, be thoughtful with your paid trial. But don’t make it a monumental task. You don’t want to lose a good potential hire who doesn’t have the time to do a giant project for someone they might not even have a contract with yet.

I hear the counter-argument: “But if they really want to work for me, they’ll do it, and if they’re too lazy, then they’re not a fit anyway.”

That’s true, to an extent. But remember, you’re hiring a freelancer and finding work for them is a real drain on resources.

At some point, even if you pay well, going through the hiring process is really not worth their time. Especially because, (as I can attest) there are plenty of prospective clients that will pay well without a nightmarish hiring process.

Sure, if they’re desperate, they’ll go through the process. But we’re talking about getting a good value, not hiring a cheap writer.

Conduct the Test and be Patient

Create the trial project and test a few of the writers out. At this point, you should keep an eye on the writers who conduct themselves professionally, hit deadlines, follow instructions, and show some creativity.

This could be my writer’s bias coming out, but even great writers might take a little time to nail down the “voice” you’re looking for. So don’t discount an otherwise good, professional writer whose style doesn’t match your audience right away.

You can work with them on that.

Of course, if they just don’t get it, get rid of them. Hopefully you didn’t weed out everyone yet and have a backup. As simple as it sounds, it’s almost as hard to find good content writing as it is to find someone who does the little things right—communicates well, turns things in on time, follows up, etc.

That’s why it’s worthwhile to be patient and work with a writer so they can nail your desired voice. Then, once he or she gets it, you can chug along rather than waiting for past due work and unanswered phone calls.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor

Despite the stigma of Craig’s List, I believe there are quality content writers to be found. I’ve found some writers on Craig’s List myself for clients and I surf the job boards as a writer from time to time.

(So obviously there are some all stars.)

Interested in More Insights, Ideas, and Some Book Recommendations?